Hearing for Oakdale shooting suspect set for next week

Tran faces 2nd-degree murder charges

A review hearing for a 34-year-old man accused of randomly shooting at cars and killing an Oakdale Elementary fourth-grader has been set for next week.

Nhan Lap Tran, of Oakdale, is accused of opening fire on passing motorists just after 6 p.m. Feb. 11 near the intersection of Seventh Street and Hadley Avenue in Oakdale. Multiple rounds were fired at four vehicles, including a minivan that 9-year-old Devin Aryal was riding in with his mother, Melissa Aryal.

Devin Aryal was shot in the head, and later died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Melissa Aryal sustained a gunshot wound to the arm but survived.

A 68-year-old woman traveling in a separate vehicle was also shot and lost part of her finger as a result of her injuries. Two other drivers were also shot at in their vehicles but were not hit.

Along this stretch of Hadley Avenue, houses line the west side of the street and office complexes dot the east side.

Police arrested Tran without incident on the 400 block of Hale Avenue North about 20 minutes after the initial shots were reported. According to the criminal complaint, they located a 9-millimeter handgun a few feet away from Tran, and found he was carrying numerous 9-millimeter bullets and two large knives.

Tran was charged last month with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of first-degree assault and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. All are felony counts and carry maximum sentences of seven to 40 years in prison.

Note found in suspect’s bedroom

Tran made his initial court appearance Feb. 13 before Washington County District Judge Ellen Maas, who set his bail at $2 million and ordered a competency and mental health evaluation requested by Tran’s public defender.

A review hearing is scheduled for March 25.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said he’s hoping at least preliminary results of the evaluation will be available by the time of the hearing, and that the question that will need to be determined is not whether or not Tran was mentally ill when he committed the crime, but rather whether or not he had the capacity to know right from wrong.

“That’s what the case will be tried about, likely,” Orput said.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed in Washington County District Court, investigators went to the home where Tran was living with his parents on the 600 block of Guthrie Avenue shortly after the shooting. The affidavit states Tran’s parents directed investigators to his bedroom.

“In plain view” on a desk in the bedroom, investigators said they found a note that said “Random Kill, Fake Plates.” They also observed the date “12/12/12,” (the end date of the Mayan calendar) had been written all over the walls of Tran’s bedroom.

According to the criminal complaint, Tran allegedly told police he shot at vehicles while they drove past his residence. He said he fired at them because cars had been following him around for a while and drivers had been “revving their engines” in front of his house and waking him up.

Alex Holmquist can be reached at aholmquist@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

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